Can UVC kill the Novel Coronavirus?
As I was in the middle of writing my article for this edition, I kept getting interrupted by phone calls, emails, and texts about our take on the Novel Coronavirus and using it as a marketing angle for the use of UVC to kill it. We have received hundreds of inquiries on the subject, and they keep coming in daily.
I decided to shift gears and save what I was working on for my next article and to address the Novel Coronavirus since it has been the main topic of conversation in our industry and all over the media.
The Short Story:
We have been preaching and training for 30 years that with the right intensity and contact time, UVC kills viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms. The Novel Coronavirus is a virus and UVC will kill it. High output UVC lights have the highest kill and sterilization rates available for residential applications. More on that in the details too.
With that said, current UVC technology has not been tested specifically against the new strain of coronavirus (COVID19), and your marketing should not make any direct claims that it has been or that it kills the coronavirus. Also, be careful with any new claims that any manufacturer of IAQ products are making as well.
With the right intensity, UVC energy can kill any kind of bacteria or virus. We presently don’t know the specific UVC dose necessary to kill this new Novel Coronavirus, yet viruses are some of the easiest micro-organisms to kill. Testing will have to be done to determine this kill rate, yet UVC will also disrupt its DNA sterilizing it rendering the virus harmless at even at lower UVC dosages. The amount of UVC intensity, measured in microwatts, necessary to kill viruses varies from virus to virus.
Here are a few examples, measured in Microwatt Seconds per Square Centimeter, of the number of microwatts it would take to “kill” certain viruses:
- Adeno Virus Type III 3 – 4,500 microwatts to kill
- Bacteriophage – 6,600 microwatts to kill
- Influenza – 6,600 microwatts to kill
- Infectious Hepatitis – 8,000 microwatts to kill
As you can see, some are easier to kill than others, but all are killed by UVC. Sterilization of most viruses and bacteria will occur at the 1000 microwatt range.
What we do know is it takes a considerable amount of UVC dosage to kill germs and viruses. The principle of UVC kill and sterilization is related to the intensity of the lamps used. The more powerful the lamp, the better the kill. Longer ducts with more opportunity for contact and dwell time create an environment for a better kill per pass. The slower the air is moving, the better the kill. So, we do have some variables here. High output UVC lamps are designed to meet or exceed the design parameters set forth by Westinghouse and RTI labs. These labs tested and reported that you need a minimum of a 110 Microwatt lamp in an airflow, up to 2400 CFM, to get a 70 to 85% kill on most airborne micro-organisms in a duct system. The Novel Coronavirus would fall into this category.
A lamp’s intensity is measured at one meter from the lamp. As germs get closer to the lamp, the intensity increases. At two inches away from high output UVC lamps, the microwatt intensity can be at or above 5,814 microwatts and 963 microwatts at 14 inches away. The best application is to have the lamp shine up and down the duct to give us the optimum time and distance to allow the germs to absorb the UVC light as they flow through the duct.
Although a 100% kill rate will not be obtained per pass, with high output UVC lamps, deactivation of the virus through sterilization is probable on every pass. Either way, kill or sterilization, the net effect is the same. If we kill it, it can’t harm us. If we sterilize it, it becomes deactivated and rendered harmless, incapable of reproducing.
The bottom line is that with high output UVC lamps, in the range of 180 microwatts at one meter from the lamp, the lamp can kill and sterilize surface and airborne micro-organisms that pass by the lamp in a typical residential HVAC system, up to five tons.
Since there are so many variables to take into consideration with UVC applications and kill rates for any virus, and the fact that UVC technology has yet to be specifically tested against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I would suggest that you be careful on how you make direct claims using the current Novel Coronavirus situation as a marketing approach. I don’t believe you should let it ride and say nothing. You should be talking about virus and germ control on your calls, with or without an outbreak like we have with the Novel Coronavirus. Giving kill rates or making any exact claims can be problematic due to the variables involved in killing any micro-organism with UVC lights.
Be sure in your marketing messages you are educational, clear, concise, and accurately informing your clients regarding your product’s capability. Also, attach the products to a whole strategy for prohibiting transmission.
For best practices, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the daily precautions for preventing the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the Novel Coronavirus. Please visit:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-riskcomplications.html for more information.
Educate yourself on what can be done to prevent getting any virus.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Ben Franklin
It would be okay to promote being “proactive” or “reduce the likelihood” and installing a high output UVC unit in your HVAC system is part of being proactive.
Steve Mores is the VP of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions
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